Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Best Hot Dog EVER?

While visiting with some family, I had the opportunity to go to Walter's Hot Dog Stand, which is shaped like a Pagoda and has some seriously old-school famous hot dogs.  They've been in business since 1919 and have a sort of cult-like following.  Evidently, the line for hot dogs is usually epic, but since I happened to go during the last two weeks in August, I only waited in a short line before getting my two dogs.  The menu is basic, no-frills, and frankly, a bit "my way or the highway".  There's no accommodating allergies or preferences here.  We took our dogs to a picnic bench under some shade trees (pleasant on a breezy August day) and dug in.

They were good.  Delicious even.  But at the end of the day, they were still hot dogs.  I think maybe I'm just not sure what the fuss is about.  I like hot dogs.  When at Fenway Park, I always order a Fenway Frank or two, which is probably about 90% pork byproduct and 10% water (I made that up.  I have no idea.  But needless to say, nothing fancy and plenty questionable).  Walter's is made up of a mix of beef, pork and veal.  Again, delicious.  Far superior to a boiled stick of who-knows-what.

But I was left asking, what if the best hot dog in the whole world still just wasn't all that impressive?

Would I go there again?  Sure, if the line was short, the dogs were cheap and tasty.  But I wouldn't stand forever for them.

What about you?  Have you had the best hot dog ever, either at Walter's or another famous hot dog stand?  Was it transcendent?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nanny's Crescents

By all accounts, Ryan's grandmother was an excellent cook.  This means that when Ryan's father (who lives alone, in Alabama) comes to visit, he is an extremely appreciative audience.  He knows good home cooking, but he almost never gets it.  Since he was coming into town this weekend, I wanted to make sure to have some dessert on hand and proposed making cookies.  Ryan's mother suggested that I make his favorites, crescents.  She e-mailed his sister for his mom's recipe and in no time, we were mixing up a batch.  They are delicate and crumbly and sweet, even when slightly overdone (which is how Ryan's dad likes them).


2 C flour
1/2 lb butter
4 1/2 T powdered sugar (plus more for rolling)
1 t vanilla
1 t orange juice
1 t cold water
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.  Start by cutting the 2 sticks (that's usually how many are in a half pound) of butter into smaller bits.  Then, in your stand mixer, mix your butter until creamy and add the powdered sugar. Then add the orange juice, water and vanilla, continuing to mix.  Slowly add the flour while mixing on low until it is incorporated.  Finally add the walnuts.  Mix one last time to distribute the walnuts evenly.  Form into crescent shapes and set on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done (mine were definitely done at 20 minutes, any longer would possibly have made them too brown even for Ryan's dad).  Take them out and toss them in powdered sugar and set to cool. Try to keep them in the house for more than a day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Caution! The Perils of Baking Post-Partum...

For several days, Ryan and I had been lamenting the lack of dessert.  We'd eaten all available ice cream, blueberries and even granola cereal.  Things were getting dire.  Armed with an extremely cooperative baby and a thorough inventory of my nearly empty cupboards I set about to bake a cake.  I knew I had the ingredients for a basic yogurt cake, but I had next to nothing to put into it, nothing to make it more than just a plain yellow moist cake.  Finally, I was inspired!  I would make a bit of a chocolatey streusel to put in the middle.  And off I went.  I mixed up the batter, chopped, pinched and fluffed the streusel and carefully layered it all in my cake pan.  I say carefully, because boy howdy was my batter dense.  Really, sticky and dense.  I hadn't remembered this batter being dense, but I ignored the nagging feeling and popped it into the oven.  As I began to wipe off the counter and returned a recipe book to its home, I realized exactly what was wrong.  I hadn't added the vegetable oil.  I grabbed the cake out of the oven, placed a quick consult call to stellacarolyn and then, with a heavy heart, I mixed together that carefully layered streusel with the oil and undid all my planning and ended up with an entirely different cake than what I'd wanted.  Still tasty mind you, but not at all what I'd intended.  I think it will be far superior if you do as I say and not as I do.  Which is probably easier if you haven't recently had a baby and subsequently lost most of your brain function.


for cake
2/3 C plain greek yogurt
1 C sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 C flour
pinch of salt
1 t baking soda
for streusel
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C chopped walnuts
3/4 C chopped chocolate chips
2 t cocoa powder
2 T butter

Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease a 9" cake pan.

Mix together the greek yogurt, sugar, eggs, vanilla and vegetable oil.  You could do this in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, or do it by hand.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda.  Combine the wet with the dry and stir together well.

Make your streusel.  The butter should be a bit softened when you work.  Add all the ingredients listed under "for streusel" to a small bowl.  Use your fingers to smush it all together so it's in crumbly delicious bits.

Pour half the cake batter in your cake pan.  Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the whole top of the batter.  Use all of it.  Then carefully distribute the other half of the cake batter over top of the streusel in a single layer.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out without any sticky bits on it.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan.

In all honesty I have no idea how this would taste.  I'm betting good.  But since I forgot the oil, I scooped all of my carefully layered cake batter back into a bowl, mixed in the oil and then plopped it all unceremoniously back into the cake pan and shoved it into the oven spilling a bit on the way.


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